Water damage repair in a house – the cost to fix it and where to start

The costs and considerations when repairing a water damaged ceiling or wall in your house

White ceiling with water damage
(Image credit: Getty Images | Arman Zhenikeyev Creative #: 1053946100)

Water damage repair is an urgent task. If your home has been damaged by burst pipes or another event, taking action immediately to clean up the water, prevent mold growth and to alleviate problems with the parts of your home affected by the water is crucial.

But you’re probably asking what you should do first, and what measures are necessary? And you might be wondering how much water damage is going to cost to fix? Our guide will answer your water damage repair questions with expert advice on what to do in the event, and whom you can call for help. Whether it's your ceiling, floor or another area of your home damaged from a leaking pipe or a heavy storm.

Water damage repair: actions and advice

Water damage repair is essential and time is of the essence. Water could further affect belongings, fixtures and fittings, and the structure of your home, and cause mold growth. 

‘It is extremely important to repair all water damage as soon as possible,’ says Joshua Miller, VP of operations at Rainbow International Restoration (opens in new tab), a Neighborly (opens in new tab) company. ‘Not only can unrepaired water damage cause musty odors and unsightly stains, but it could possibly also lead to microbial growth. Once mold begins to grow it can cause structural damage and/or serious health concerns, such as respiratory issues and skin irritations.’

Be aware that water’s effects aren’t always readily apparent, but they still need to remedied. ‘Moisture that lingers behind walls and under floors can harm the occupants’ health and grow much worse over time,’ says Marina Vaamonde, founder of Property Cashin (opens in new tab) and real estate investor.

Can water damage be fixed in a house?

Note that water damage repair is generally possible, although its extent will determine the answer on an individual basis. 

‘Water damage can almost always be fixed as long as it is not so extensive as to have impacted every room in the house,’ explains Shawn Laib, a home renovation expert with Quote.com (opens in new tab). ‘If this is the case, you are unfortunately going to be better off taking the enormous loss on the sale of the home.’

Where to start with water damage repair

It’s vitally important to distinguish between different types of water when water damage repair is called for. Water removal expert Peter Cole of Virginia-based Water Damage DMV (opens in new tab) explains that there are three types:

1. Pure and clean water: it is normally due to rain, leaking pipes, etc.

2. Gray water: this is a form of waste water which is due to dishwashing, laundry, and cleaning toilets, etc.  Only drying this water is not the solution but it also requires scrubbing and disinfecting the area with bleach or other chemicals.

3. Black water: it has a link with sewage disposal or sudden overflow from rivers. This type of water contains several bacteria and insects which are very harmful to health and properties as well. 

As you’d expect what water damage repair involves depends on the type of water. ‘Clean water (type 1) can be easily cleaned up,’ says Marina Vaamonde. ‘Type 2 (gray) and type 3 (black) water contain various levels of contamination and can cause serious health problems. Professionals should handle those cleanups.’

To start, check out where the water originates from. ‘After identifying where the water is coming from, sometimes you will be able to fix the water-damaged area yourself,‘ says Alex Berezowski, owner and general manager of The Foundation Experts Inc (opens in new tab).

‘After repairing what is causing the leak, whether a damaged pipe, ceiling tile, or even a buildup of snow on the outside of your foundation, assess the situation. Ask yourself, is there mold built up around the water-damaged area?’ 

Living in a home with mold has health implications and although you might be able to get rid of mold yourself with appropriate precautions, it may require calling in a professional depending on the extent of the problem. 

Be safety conscious with electricity. ‘If water levels rose to where your outlets are, it’s crucial to keep all sources of power off in the affected area to avoid any major accidents,’ says licensed general contractor and Thumbtack (opens in new tab) home expert David Steckel. 

‘This is particularly crucial for basement flooding, which typically houses many major sources of power, including water heaters – wait to turn any heaters back on until they’ve been repaired by a professional.’

How do you fix water damaged walls?

‘Water-damaged walls typically need to be completely knocked out and replaced with fresh drywall and paint,’ explains Shawn Laib. ‘Check with your insurance company and see if they will cover the costs of these repairs if you weren’t responsible for the water damage happening.’

How much does it cost to fix water damage?

The cost of fixing water damage depends on the type of water that needs to be cleaned up, the level of damage, and how long it was before it was discovered.

‘If a water event occurs, if safe to do so, make sure to stop the source of the leak/water intrusion,’ advises Joshua Miller. ‘Next contact your homeowner’s insurance company. Most policies cover many different types of water events. Once assigned, an adjuster will make coverage determinations. It is important to report a loss as soon as you can in order to ensure you are providing the most accurate information. When selecting a restoration provider remember that you have the right to choose who you would like to work with.’

As for what costs are likely to be? ‘The low estimate for water damage remediation would be over $1,000,’ says expert on emergency plumbing and water damage restoration Mohamad Bailouni of Risk Free Serv (opens in new tab). ‘This is for smaller, straightforward projects which involve water extraction and drying of a small water leak in one or two areas, done within 24 hours of the leak. 

‘If two or more areas are affected by clean water, water extraction, drying and demolition, if needed, would cost you about $3,000. But projects which cover serious damage in two or more areas are really expensive. If you require black water extraction, the use of heavy artillery drying equipment, demolition, as well as mold remediation and sanitization, which is a must in these scenarios, it could cost you as much as $8,000.’

‘Bear in mind that water damage remediation costs do not include the costs of repair,’ he adds.  

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For Realhomes.com, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.

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